After a long and circuitous path, the fate of protected bike lanes on East Harlem’s First and Second Avenues may be decided in a community board vote Tuesday night.
First the city promised protected lanes and pedestrian refuge islands to the neighborhood along with Select Bus Service. Then it walked back that commitment, limiting new bicycle and pedestrian facilities to downtown segments of First and Second. The neighborhood mobilized, going so far as to rally on the steps of City Hall with City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and State Senator José Serrano, eventually winning back an offer of the safety improvements. Community Board 11 quickly endorsed the plan in a vote of 47-3, only to rescind its approval when local businesses complained.
Now, after some consensus-building in a working group suggested by Borough President Scott Stringer, CB 11’s transportation committee has again endorsed the bike lanes unanimously. If the full board votes for the street improvements another time tomorrow night, the Department of Transportation will move forward with installation of the parking-protected lanes in East Harlem.
East Harlem is a neighborhood badly in need of this kind of pedestrian and bicycle-friendly redesign. It has some of the highest levels of cycling in the city despite woefully inadequate bike infrastructure. Public health officials have rallied around the proposed protected lanes, hoping that they get more people riding and walking in a neighborhood that struggles with high asthma and diabetes rates.
Community Board 11 will meet tomorrow night, March 20, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in the auditorium of P.S. 30, at 144-176 E. 128th Street (between Lexington and 3rd Avenue).